Sonny James and Jack Greene won the evening’s top honors, but with so many old friends on hand to greet and swap stories with, the awards segment was but a small part of Thursday’s (Nov. 8) Golden R.O.P.E. festivities. The annual event, sponsored by the Reunion of Professional Entertainers, was held at the Gibson Bluegrass Café at the Opry Mills shopping center in Nashville.
James, whose music rated high with both pop and country audiences during the 1960s and ‘70s, won the Don Pierce Golden Eagle Award for career achievement. Grand Ole Opry star Greene took R.O.P.E.’s entertainer of the year prize. WSM-AM disc jockey Bill Cody copped the media award. Mel Tillis won the songwriter of the year trophy. Talent manager and media personality Tandy Rice walked away with the business award. Jimmy Capps was proclaimed musician of the year. Friends accepted the awards for Tillis and Capps, who were unable to attend.
Legendary singer Ferlin Husky headlined the show that rounded out the ceremonies.
Among the celebrities spotted in the glittering audience of several hundred were Grand Ole Opry stars Billy Walker, Charlie Walker, Stu Phillips and Jim Ed Brown (accompanied by his singing sisters Maxine and Bonnie); songwriters Merle Kilgore and Jerry Chesnut; "Hee Haw" alumna Roni Stoneman; bluegrass music great Mac Wiseman; air personalities Eddie Stubbs and Johnny "K" Koval (the latter celebrating his 48th anniversary in radio that day); Country Music Hall of Fame member Kitty Wells; and television documentary producers Greg and Barbara Hall. Pioneering radio executive and disc jockey Tom Perryman presided over the ceremonies, assisted by WSM-AM (650)’s Keith Bilbrey.
Maxine Brown told country.com that she’s shopping a book she’s written about the Browns’ rise to international popularity through hit records such as "The Three Bells," "I Take the Chance" and "Here Today and Gone Tomorrow." The book also covers the period during which young Elvis Presley toured with the trio and was a frequent guest at their Arkansas home.
Ailing songwriter Joe Allison presented James the Golden Eagle Award. While noting that James had once compiled a remarkable string of 16 consecutive No. 1 country hits, Allison explained that the singer’s enduring distinction has been the civility and dignity that earned him the name "the Southern Gentleman." "He’s had only one wife," Allison continued, "with no girlfriends on the side." He further noted that James never cursed. He told the story of the time James accidentally smashed his thumb with a hammer and, in the midst of such great pain and provocation, exclaimed "Oh, flitter!"
In accepting his award, James remarked, "I’ll use the words Mac Wiseman did [in one of his signature songs] and say, ‘’Tis sweet to be remembered.’"
Speaking of his recent hospitalization, media award-winner Cody told the crowd, "There I was expecting the Grim Reaper -- and who should show up at the foot of my bed at Baptist Hospital but Sonny James." One of WSM-AM’s many on-air champions of traditional country music, Cody said he had loved listening to the station he now works for since he was young boy traveling with his family on the two-lane road between Kentucky and Alabama. "My dad said, ‘Son, that’s the one -- WSM.’ And he was right.’"
Wells presented Greene the entertainer of the year trophy. A late arrival at the proceedings, Greene said, "I’m so happy to be here because three hours ago I was in East Tennessee." Gesturing toward his white cowboy hat, he explained, "I wasn’t supposed to wear a hat tonight, but I didn’t have my hair with me."
2001 Golden Rope Award Winners:
Media -- Bill Cody
Musician -- Jimmy Capps
Business -- Tandy Rice
Songwriter -- Mel Tillis
Entertainer -- Jack Greene
Don Pierce Award -- Sonny James